Young teams can win, but it takes some help (luck).
While it is easy to point to Kentucky's tournament success as hope for Duke next season, I believe it is completely overblown. Kentucky has absolutely improved as a team, they are fortunate to make the Final Four. They won their four tournament games by a combined 17 points. As most statisticians will tell you, winning close games is not a skill and Kentucky has been fortunate to win all these games down the stretch. They are also completely outperforming their regular season performances. This points to their improvement but is impossible to expect this large of a jump. Their season three point percentage is 33% but it has been at 44% for their last three wins. Has Kentucky improved? Yes. Are they deserving of a Final Four? Yes. Does their success prove that experience is not needed to win big games? Not at all. Duke could get the same jump in play and luck come tournament time next year as Kentucky did this year, but they could also suffer the same fate as this year’s Duke team did.
It is hard to win in the NCAA Tournament with an average defense.
The team in the Michigan vs Kentucky game that resembled Duke the most was Michigan. They, along with Duke, were one of the top offenses all season with an average defense. They had a fairly easy path to the Elite Eight, beating a 15, 7 and 11 seed to get there. Michigan played Kentucky very tough but allowed too many easy baskets to win the game. Too many times Kentucky would get an easy layup off of quick passing and offensive rebounds. Credit Kentucky for taking advantage of these defensive miscues but it was not a good defensive performance from Michigan. Instead of the focus on Kentucky's youth, the bigger focus should have been on Michigan's poor defense, something that has plagued Duke since their championship run.
It is always nice to have a great point guard.
Of the four teams left in the tournament, two of the four has their best player at point guard. UConn is the biggest example of this. After Shabazz Napier, UConn is a slightly above average team. Napier's phenomenal, but not unexpected, play has led them to their first Final Four since Kemba Walker carried them to a Championship. In large part due to their point guard, UConn destroyed Michigan State in the turnover battle. Michigan State, whose point guard play was very poor in the game, had a difficult time running good offense. Based on that game, it is quite easy to see why a good point guard is needed come tournament time. Duke should have that next year with the inclusion of Tyus Jones, but it will be important for them to get consistent play out of the freshman and inconsistent senior Quinn Cook.
Live by the three, die by the three.
Although Michigan State is a team characterized by toughness, they hardly got the ball into the paint against UConn. Instead of using their size advantage, Michigan State got just 6 points in the paint and took 29 threes. Michigan State made a respectable amount, 37%, but took very few free throws. This was most evident in big man Adrien Payne, Michigan State's best big man, who shot 10 threes, 4 twos and 2 free throws. The momentum in the game changed quickly when Michigan State made or missed their threes. Ultimately, Michigan State did not make enough to win the game. Looking at the rosters, it is easy to see Michigan State had the more talented team, yet the relied entirely on shooting to win them the game. Especially considering Michigan State was more talented; it made little logical sense for them to use that strategy. It will be a big key for upcoming Duke teams to see the flaws in relying entirely on the three and focusing on getting into the paint more.